November 2014 Archives

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Hi Everyone!

This week I started a new collection filled with over 80 citrus labels. Many of these labels are quite rare and were generously donated by Alice Oglesby. The most interesting aspect of these labels from citrus boxes is that the majority of them are from Claremont and Pomona. I am currently a senior at one of the Claremont Colleges, so I have spent quite a bit of time in the area, but I never fully realized its rich history until now. Exactly where one of my favorite restaurants is today used to be a packing house that would ship local lemons, tangerines, navel oranges, ruby red grapefruits, and other citruses across the country. The citrus labels in the collection range from as early as the 1890s to the 1940s. After learning about this history, I decided to dig a little bit deeper.

Historical Packing House.png

The California Fruit Growers Association was established in 1893, only six years after the city of Claremont was founded. It wasn't until 1909 when the Packing House was built. The Packing House became more than just a place for shipping of fruit. It became somewhat of a town center, selling other items useful for the citrus growers. The height of business in Claremont was between the 1920s and the 1950s. By 1972, the production halted and the building was sold.

ClaremontPackingHouse_SallyEgan[1].jpg

The Claremont Packing House today

I have loved working on this collection. Through looking through the citrus labels, I have been able to see beautiful artistic renditions of what Claremont used to look like about 100 years ago. I feel as though I have gotten to know the city I have been living in for the past 3 years so much better.

Phoebe

Information found on: http://claremontpackinghouse.com/history.htm

The Secret Life of the Nag Hammadi Texts

Hello everyone! Because I've devoted so much time to processing the Nag Hammadi Codices Project, I have - as you might imagine - had ample opportunity to consider the scholarly potential of this collection. Recently, though, I decided that it would be fun/enlightening to take a break from the academic side of things and learn a little more about the popular religious culture that has sprung up around the texts since they were re-discovered in 1945. 

Once I started looking for information, I discovered there was a lot to find! One of the most entertaining aspects of what you might call "Nag Hammadi Pop Culture" is the connection some people have argued exists between these gnostic texts and...global alien invasion. The basic gist of these conspiracy theories is that gnostic/Nag Hammadi writings about beings called Archons prove that aliens visited earth. And the alien activity didn't stop back then, they argue. Even today people are being "invaded by Archons," and that is why we have so much suffering in the world (http://perdurabo10.tripod.com/galleryl/id113.html).

If you're interested in hearing a little more about the "Archon as ET" perspective, you can listen to this New Zealand radio show's exploration of the topic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_BnbVfaA0A) and read this article (http://www.metahistory.org/gnostique/archonfiles/AlienIntrusion.php)!

But if you're finding yourself shaking your head in skepticism, know you're not alone. Scholars certainly don't view the Nag Hammadi texts as histories of extraterrestrial activity. Although it is true that the Archons loomed large in the gnostic imagination, it's not because they had recently landed near the Nile in a spaceship. Rather, they were discussed with frequency because they were important mythological figures in gnostic theology. Different gnostic groups propagated different interpretations of Archon theology, but the general themes were usually the same. Namely, gnostics believed that the Archons were powerful, non-human beings. They had less authority than God/the Ultimate Creator, but they had vastly greater power than human beings. As such, they were often presented in ancient writings as hostile or threatening figures that divided humans from their God. 

With this in mind, you can imagine how interesting I find contemporary arguments that the Nag Hammadi library is "factual evidence" that the Archons were alien invaders! While I don't get on board with this theory, I do think it is a fascinating example of how a group of people very far removed from the culture in which the Nag Hammadi texts were created can come up with a very creative interpretation of them...based on contemporary cultural anxieties and concerns. In scriptural studies, there is a term for this: eisegesis. Specifically, eisegesis means "an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eisegesis?s=t). The goal for scholars, of course, is to avoid eisegesis and understand how the original record creator's culture and background shaped his or her perspective and - in turn - the text. 

What do you think about this? Had you heard that the Nag Hammadi library was being used by some as "evidence" for supposed extraterrestrial life? Maybe you should come look at our Nag Hammadi collection when we're done processing it and examine the evidence for yourself! 



Social Movements

Hi Everyone,

I am just finishing a new collection I began working on this week that I am very excited about! This new collection is about social movements throughout the 20th century in the United States, which is my area of study. It is the beginning of the collection and it will expand over time. As of right now, there are materials from the Civil Rights movement from as early as 1938, the Chicano movement, the United Farm Workers, Zoot Suit riots, and the Young Lords Movement. Some of my favorite materials are paños hand drawn by prisoners. These paños have stunning details and are beautifully presented.

I was very excited to begin learning more about these documents and materials. At first, it was difficult to find an arrangement that is suitable for an expanding collection; however, after some work, we decided to arrange it based on the social movement the material belonged to. In order to help preserve some of these materials, I placed the posters and photographs in mylar sleeving. This technique will prevent people from touching the original material too often. I then arranged everything into folders, some of which I had to make myself, and labeled them. I then entered the information onto Archivists Toolkit.

My favorite aspect of working with this collection is that it presents the struggles people experienced in order to create a better society. Often times, the 1960s are represented as a time full of hippies and great music; however, much of the social change we see today stems from the efforts of people in the 1960s. It took great effort and resistance to make the difference we see in the world today. Although there is a great way to go, the people of the 1960s and before have allowed us to be able to create a better world.

See you all next week!

Phoebe

Life Pre-Photoshop

Hello everyone! This week I've continued to work hard on processing the Nag Hammadi Codices Project collection. That is to say, I've spent a great deal of time organizing photographs of the Nag Hammadi texts, as well as photocopies of these photographs.

One of the things that has made an impression on me as I've moved through this collection is how difficult and laborious a process editing images was in a pre-Photoshop world. The phrase "cut and paste" is ubiquitous in our society, and of course it refers to the process of removing a phrase or image from one part of a document and placing it somewhere else. But in a BC (before computer :-) world, to "cut and paste" was no digital metaphor! It was what authors and editors literally had to do in order to create a book of images.

As you can imagine, there was a huge amount of cutting and pasting to be done for the Nag Hammadi Facsimile Edition. The gnostic texts had in many cases crumbled to fragments. Where pages still existed, they had often come loose from the binding and were incomplete. Thus, a significant portion of the job performed by Dr. James Robinson (to whom, as you may recall, this collection belonged) and his fellow editors was to try and piece together which fragments and pages went where. 

Fast forward approximately forty years, to the point where I am organizing the drafts and edited images they came up with during this process. Many times I will come across something like this:

fragment pasted_blog ready.jpg(Disclaimer: I recognize this photo is a little fuzzy, but in order to stay on the right side of copyright law, I need to make sure that none of the text in the image is identifiable! Still, it's clear enough to provide an interesting example.) If you examine this image closely, you can see multiple layers of images that have been cut out and glued, one on top of another. This is what an actual "photoshop" job looked like back then!

With this in mind, I'll leave you with a great blog post from the website petapixel.com - http://petapixel.com/2013/05/08/how-photographers-photoshopped-their-pictures-back-in-1946/. Check it out! The author, Michael Zang, has images and advice from an actual "how to" book on photographic retouching published in the 1940s. My favorite part is the chart of what tools the photo re-touchers would have used when doing this by hand (hint: rubber cement is on the list!).

I hope you have fun learning a little more about this!

Reference Requests!

I filled my first reference request today! A professor at one of the Claremont Colleges is doing research that involves the Nag Hammadi texts, and of course that means she's interested in what we're processing over here at Special Collections. 

 

I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly on Wednesday, and followed up on her request to learn more about how she could view the facsimile images of this amazing gnostic library. Although the collection I'm processing won't be open for scholarly research until I'm done organizing and conserving it, I was able to point her in the direction of some resources that might be helpful for her work in the meantime. I thought I'd share them with you all today, so that any other Nag Hammadi fans out there could settle in for some great weekend reading! There are three main areas I'd recommend looking:

 

1.     Special Collections has already digitized many of the Nag Hammadi images, and anyone with an internet connection is free to study them! These are located here: http://ccdl.libraries.claremont.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/nha.


2.     You can find publication details If you're interested in purchasing (or finding at your local library!) the official, 15-volume facsimile set.


3.     Not fluent in ancient Coptic yet? No problem! There are at least three scholarly translations of the Nag Hammadi library into English of which I am aware: one by Bentley Layton (http://www.amazon.com/The-Gnostic-Scriptures-Translation-Introductions/dp/0385478437), another by Claremont's own James M. Robinson (http://www.amazon.com/Nag-Hammadi-Library-James-Robinson/dp/0060669357/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415390002&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Nag+Hammadi+Library+in+English), and the last by Marvin Meyer and Elaine Pagels (http://www.amazon.com/Nag-Hammadi-Scriptures-Translation-Complete/dp/0061626007/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415390002&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Nag+Hammadi+Library+in+English)


These should be enough to get you off to a strong start! If I find anything else, I'll let you know!

A Little Punk

Hi Everyone!

This past week has been very exciting while working in Special Collections. I began working on a new collection about punk flyers from San Francisco and Rancho Cucamonga in the late 1970's and early 1980's. There were over 80 flyers with names of local bands, bands from the U.K. and Canada, and some pretty famous bands. There were also flyers from a large variety of venues all around San Francisco, like the Mabuhay (Fab Mab), On Broadway, Berkeley Square, The Savoy, and more. Not only were the venues and acts very interesting, but the art on each of the flyers was unique and dramatic. Punk Flyers.JPG

While looking through the flyers, I was able to get a little more insight into the Punk scene during this time in San Francisco. I was able to learn a little bit more about this little pocket of counterculture during the 1970s and 1980s, which had a large impact on music and culture today. Also, I got to learn a little more about some popular bands before they became super famous, like the B52's, the Dead Kennedys, U2, and the Talking Heads, and about the venues they performed at, and the flyers that were used to advertise them. I also learned about some smaller bands that had great names, like Psychedelic Furs, Peter Accident and the Duck Revolution, and Shankin' Babylonians. I had a great time looking through all of the art on the flyers and understanding more about this counterculture. Next, I will be working on a collection about Social Movements, which is very exciting!

Phoebe